Breathe in, facing demons
Breathe out, slaying dragons.
I was once going to write a book about my 35+ years of treating offenders, victims, and families of violence, trauma, abuse and addiction. I always wanted to call the book "Staring Evil in the Eyes." What I learned is that before I can face the evil in others, I have to face my own demons and slay my own dragons. I may still need to write this book.
Facing: (1) confronting, tackling, meeting, or handling, (2) coping, dealing, or playing with, (3) admitting, realizing, or accepting, (4) looking towards or in front of
Demons: (1) supposed evil spirit or monster, (2) personal fear or anxiety
The dojo is supposed to be a safe place of training. One dojo I trained at had a sign by the door that said to leave our past training and ego there before entering. Yea right, as if I was able to do that. There is an old saying that wherever you go, there you are. I take me with me. That includes the dojo. Therefore, on the mat I bring all my demons with me. Perhaps we need to enter the dojo to learn how to leave all that stuff we carry with us at the door. If we are wise, we may not pick it back up when we leave. The dojo is a place of sweat and training. It may be unrealistic to think we have faced our demons by avoiding them or leaving them outside. In the relationship is training with others, we are confronted with ourselves. Why can I do something and not others? Why can I train with some people and not others? In Aikido, I often heard that wherever the head goes the body would follow. What comes into the mind is demonstrated and illustrated in the body. Be mindful and face what the training opportunity presents for you. We often have inner demons regarding aggression. This is where we enter and connect to them.
In life, we are confronted with anger and aggression every day. Sometimes it is obvious and other times it is more subtle. Sometimes it is visual, other times it is more auditory. However, the biggest demon that surfaces is the ability to let love in and let love out. A true act of courage is to let ourselves fall hopelessly in love and let someone else fall hopelessly in love with us. While love heals, it also brings up all the wounds/demons that need healing. As a counselor, I often ask what the space between people is. We usually fill the space with our worst fears and demons. Often they have nothing to do with the other person sitting across from us. They are projecting their own fears and demons into that same space. A relationship gives us the opportunity to face those demons. Rather than push them away, I often ask couples to breath into that space between them and just stay with the feelings and the fears. Demons, like bullies, do not like it when we stand our ground and face them. The question always is when you are staring a demon in the eye, who will blink first. Guess the answer is how badly we want to get healthy and have love in our lives.
Slaying: (1) assignation, killing, (2) eliminating
Dragons: (1) scaly green monster, (2) large lizard, (3) offensive term
In the dojo, with time we tend to pick up the pace and the intensity of the attack. What was once just practice becomes closer to reality. Internal demons become external dragons. If we collapse into our internal demons, the external dragons win. As our training partners trust our confidence and reactions more, they come closer and closer to hitting us if we do not move. The gift of training is that cooperative collaboration in the choreography. At first, it is rigid and artificial. We often say that slow is smooth and smooth is fast. We have to slow down our thinking and movement to practice the correct alignment and structure and then connect that to our training partner. With time and correct practice, we begin to move faster and freer because we are no longer fighting it. Instead of being too serious, in time we may be accused of enjoying ourselves too much. Even if not consciously, on some level if we are confronted we know what we need to do and have conditioned/trained our body to do it.
In life, we often have never really sat with our demons and learned to connect and communicate with them. Often when we initially do, the demons seem to grow into giant dragons. The old saying is that things will get worse before they get better. We have some house cleaning to do. We have to find the beliefs we have incorporated and integrated into our life through unconscious emotional identification. We have to develop the courage, compassion, and clarity to see them. Demons do not like it when you stare back and dragons do not like it when you can see through their smoke and mirrors. It is like seeing behind the curtain to the Wizard of Oz. Both demons and dragons are only thoughts or memories that we have already lived through and survived. Like a stray cat that quits coming around when you quit feeding it or a bully who stops when we stand up to him/her, we can learn to control our own thoughts. We can choose to let some go and add something that better serves us and everyone in our lives.
Peace: (1) freedom or absence of war, (2) tranquility or serenity, (3) mental calm or silence, (4) harmony, (5) law and order
I remember listening to an Aikido student attempt to be philosophical saying that he is at peace and if someone disturbs that peace he would dispatch them and return to his peace. He asked if I agreed. I simply said you could dispatch them through the nearest window without allowing it to disturb your peace. I have noticed in Aikido that the more aggressive I allow my thoughts to be, the more tense my body becomes, and the less powerful the technique. The more relaxed my body becomes and the more at peace my mind, the more powerful the techniques become. I often think this is what our intent is. If our intent in training is the anger/demons and aggression/dragons, we have picked the wrong art in Aikido. If, on the other hand, it is to confront our personal demons and slay the dragons of ignorance, arrogance, and aggression, then perhaps we have that opportunity to finally find a way of peace.
If we decide in life that we want to be love-based and not fear-based we will have to find the courage to confront our personal demons and slay the dragon of social norms. This s not an easy task and many do not believe that such fundamental changes are possible (which means they do not know how or are too afraid to makes the changes necessary to be healthy and happy). They say that everyone wants to be happy and no one wants to suffer. That is probably true. Facing personal demons and slaying dragons is not an easy road. For some, going down that road is not a conscious choice, but one of necessity. We many never confront all our demons or slay all our dragons. Perhaps that is a part of our human nature or at least the socialized mind. However, we can develop the perception and skills to recognize them for who they are and place them where they can do the least harm. Demons and dragon are just negative cognitive distortions and attachments. We created them so we can let them go. If we do not hold on to them, they cannot hold on to us. We cannot make peace happen, but we can let go and it happens all by itself.
Breathe in, facing demons
Breathe out, slaying dragons.
Thanks for listening, for the opportunity to be of service, and for sharing the journey. Now get back to training. KWATZ!
Lynn Seiser (b. 1950 Pontiac, Michigan), Ph.D. has been a perpetual student of martial arts, CQC/H2H, FMA/JKD, and other fighting systems for over 40 years. He currently holds the rank of Yondan (4th degree black belt) from Sensei Dang Thong Phong of the International Tenshinkai Aikido Federation and Sensei Andrew Sato of the Aikido World Alliance. He is the co-author of three books on Aikido (with Phong Sensei) and his martial art articles have appeared in Black Belt Magazine, Aikido Today Magazine, and Martial Arts and Combat Sports Magazine. He is the founder of Aiki-Solutions and IdentityTherapy and is an internationally respected psychotherapist in the clinical treatment of offenders, victims, and families of violence, trauma, abuse, and addiction. He is a professor of clinical and forensic psychology with an expertise in family violence and treatment. He lives with his wife and trains on the Florida Gulf Coast (chasing grandchildren).